Jim Lynn admits to being “kind of a hacker.” The Post Falls Junior High School counselor used up 3.5 megabytes of computer storage to plan Friday’s Career Day.
It was a major logistics feat to line up 50 speakers and schedule 600 students to attend four talks apiece.
But it paid off with moments like this:
A classroom full of kids listens intently and shoots questions at Rick Grant, a smiling and enthusiastic building contractor.
Then Grant asks: How many of you don’t expect to attend college, maybe because your families can’t afford it?
This time, no hands go up.
“Maybe they wouldn’t want to say,” responds a quiet young voice.
“Not everybody in this room is going on to a college or university. My folks didn’t have the money to put me through college,” Grant says. He adds that construction is a worthy trade. “Who builds our schools and bridges?”
It was that kind of conversation that Lynn had in mind when he planned the school’s first Career Day in recent years.
Only 20 percent of jobs require a college education, Lynn said. While not discouraging those who are intent on professional careers, he wants seventh- and eighth-graders to get a realistic idea of the job market.
Lynn recalled that he was clueless about careers when he entered high school. That’s why he put a lot of energy into the junior high Career Day, even though such events are more common in higher grades.
“In the ninth grade, I still wanted to be a physicist, because I’d heard the word in a flashy context,” Lynn said. “I’ve been everything but a physicist.”
He got a degree in philosophy, then worked in a factory, and eventually was a business manager. A few years back, he switched gears and got into school counseling.
Lynn went to the Eastern Washington University library to research career days. He asked for advice from other counselors via the Internet. He tested the eighth-graders for career aptitude, and asked kids in both grades what interested them.
Their answers helped determine which speakers came on Friday morning.
While Grant was explaining how apprenticeships work, actor Roger Welsh was down the hall recommending that students attend college if they want to be performers.
Welsh explained the upcoming Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre season, and all the skills that go into making musicals. He stressed versatility.
“One of the reasons I’ve kept working for the last 10 years is that I “I’m not famous. But I make enough money to survive, and I get to do drama full time. It’s very rewarding and very fun.”
He added that, of all the people trying to be actors in the United States, only 5 percent make a living at it.
According to Lynn, young teens need to start letting go of their fantasies.
“There are a certain number who want to be pro athletes, and they probably need to be told that might not happen,” the counselor said.
Just the same, Career Day included a guest appearance from football hero Mark Rypien who lives in Post Falls.
A lot of youngsters imagine growing up to drive big red trucks and fight fires.
That was a dream that Larry Boatwright never gave up. He was 40 before it came true.
The Post Falls firefighter and volunteer Sally Williams kept kids’ attention by explaining how they investigated fire scenes and sniffed out arsonists.
“It’s a great job,” said Boatwright, encouraging students to stop by the station if they were interested in being firefighters. “Don’t even think your dreams can’t come true.”
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